The Mighty Logo

21 Signs You Grew Up With Multiple Chronic Illnesses

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Even if you were diagnosed with chronic illnesses as an adult, you may have actually been dealing with symptoms as far back as childhood. It’s all too easy to brush kids off when they say something hurts, so many people in our community who grew up with several chronic health conditions were told they must be “faking” or experiencing “growing pains,” or remained undiagnosed for years because doctors weren’t able to pinpoint the various sources of their symptoms. But now, as adults with several serious health challenges that haven’t gone away, perhaps you can look back on your childhood and see that there were signs you did have multiple chronic illnesses.

No kid should be made to feel like their pain is “nothing” and doesn’t matter. And it can be really validating and reassuring to see how others experienced similar challenges in childhood as you. So we asked our Mighty community to share signs they recognize now that indicate they grew up with multiple chronic illnesses. If you’re living with several illnesses that caused a complex set of symptoms while you were growing up, perhaps you’ll relate.

Here’s what our community told us:

  1. The fatigue. When I was in high school, I would crawl under a table in an empty room during my free period and sleep. After school I would come home and sleep until dinner time. I was always exhausted. This alternated with bouts of insomnia where I wouldn’t sleep for days. As an adult, I realize this was likely from the Hashimoto’s. I also had severe chronic pain and always felt like I had the flu. I thought this was normal and thought everyone felt that way, but it was the fibromyalgia and probably the Hashimoto’s as well.” — Patti S.
  2. “Not being able to play during recess as a child because everything hurt and I had no energy. Crying at the end of every day all throughout my elementary school years because of chronic migraines and pain.” — Jennifer C.
  3. I never had the stamina or energy level as my peers. Needed more rest than what was average. I was sick a lot when I was a child. Now in my 50s and completely disabled with severe chronic fatigue syndrome and severe adrenal fatigue after years of multiple traumas.” — Elaine L.
  4. “The chronic stomach aches/stomach issues I suffered through growing up got me labeled as a hypochondriac or simply a ‘faker.’ Turns out, I have thyroid issues, anxiety and depression, and IBS.” — Carrie M.
  5. “I had a lot of ‘growing pains’ (fibromyalgia and arthralgia), had very little warning when I needed the bathroom and always needed the bathroom immediately after using the restroom (Crohn’s disease). I dealt with and still deal with a lot of depression and anxiety surrounding my illness.” — Tyler S.
  6. “I got picked up early from many a sleepover, was always the first to fall asleep and never understood why playing always made me feel so sick.” — Tyffanie E.
  7. “I had the hardest time going to school; eight hours is super hard to do. I stopped going on field trips because it would take days to recover [and I] didn’t know why.” — Samantha S.
  8. “My mother says the first sign of my severe anxiety, OCD and sensory issues was that as a child, my socks had to feel just right on my feet.” — Siri P.
  9. “Living in a constant state of anxiety starting at age 12 caused by horrific periods, passing clots the size of baseballs, severe pain, severe bleeding, constipation, nausea, vomiting and because it’s a taboo conversation, I thought this was my normal. I ‘toughed it out’ so long, for fear of being called a hypochondriac that the conditions came to do irreparable damage.” — Jodie N.
  10. “I always had stomach pains after eating and even when I was little my knees would turn bright red, swell and be super painful.” — Elizabeth E.
  11. “I was sick at least six times a year, and got every cold or flu that ever went around. In high school people always knew that I had a stash of various drugs in my purse and locker (Advil, muscle relaxants, allergy stuff, cold and flu meds, Band-aids, etc.). If anyone wasn’t feeling well, I became a mini drug dealer for various over-the-counter medications. I also always got tired super easy, and always struggled in gym despite being in shape.” — Beth H.
  12. “Being constantly tired and more easily fatigued than everyone else. Even though I was active and in good shape, I never understood how people had the energy to do so much all the time. I always felt like I was somehow behind everyone else and had to work so much harder.” — Jill A.
  13. “I cried myself to sleep at night. Wasn’t into sleepovers at friends’ houses in fear of the pain.” — Kim T.
  14. “One thing sticks out in my mind when I was walking into my local town when I was 17. This was approximately a mile distance and I had a voice going on over and over in my head saying, ‘tired, tired, tired.’ I’m now 32 and [have] chronic fatigue. Thinking back to my teens it’s easy to assume in my mind I wasn’t as exhausted then, but I must have been to some extent. Oh and I had a boyfriend when I was 18, I remember saying to him I was tired. And he gave a nasty response: ‘Busy day at the office?’ Just because he knew I had been at home that day.” — Eve G.
  15. “Falling asleep in the middle of a sentence. Weird phases where I wouldn’t wear certain clothes (jeans were itchy, T-shirt seams were itchy). Taking long naps after school. Headaches, stomach problems, general pain, knees giving out.” — Ashleigh C.
  16. “The fluctuating weight, constant fatigue and taking longer to heal from injuries. As a young teenager, I was always looking at other people to see if they had the same fat deposits. Does their tummy stick out like a pregnant lady’s? Do they have a buffalo hump and weird neck? Do they have thin arms and legs?” — Hanna R.
  17. “Pain issues, always pain, skin problems that no doctor could name or understand, headaches, allergies, asthma, the list goes on and on…nothing was ever connected. We now know all of these issues are connected and that as you grow and age there are more and more problems, issues, concerns and diseases.” — Peggy P.
  18. “[A] sign was when I struggled to concentrate. My teachers used to say there’s no point trying to communicate with me if I get tired because I just couldn’t. I still get this today…. every day at 3 p.m. on the dot, without fail. It’s a symptom of my cortisol fluctuating and my body trying to adjust.” — Hanna R.
  19. “My ‘growing pains’ continued long after I’d stopped growing…” — Jacqueline W.
  20. “Debilitating ‘growing pains’ and UTI’s about every three months. It’s sad when a 4-year-old is afraid to pee because they never know if it will hurt.” — Callie H.
  21. “The bendy party tricks I’d perform as a child are coming back to bite me in the butt. I never knew hypermobility could be connected to so many things, and possibly be my answer.” — Alane P.
Originally published: March 22, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home